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The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas

Examining Texans' attitudes about higher education and the impacts of COVID-19.

About the poll.

The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas, commissioned by the nonprofit, accredited online university, WGU Texas, the Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT), and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) examines key public concerns and attitudes about higher education statewide. This year marks their second bi-annual collaboration and the first year to include insights about the pandemic and the digital divide. The poll was conducted by independent researchers James Henson, Ph.D. and Joshua Blank, Ph.D. of Strategic Research Associates, (SRATEX, LLC.)

Partner organizations.

WGU Texas is an online, nonprofit, competency-based university established to expand Texans’ access to higher education throughout the state. Formed through a partnership between the State of Texas and nationally recognized Western Governors University, WGU Texas is open to all qualified Texas residents. 

The university offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the high-demand career fields of business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing. To learn more, visit texas.wgu.edu.

Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT), a nonprofit association, is the voice for Texas' fully accredited private colleges and universities. For over 50 years, it has fulfilled its mission of helping policymakers recognize the importance and value of the independent sector of higher education by successfully articulating the sector's needs and aspirations.

ICUT supports Texas independent nonprofit colleges and universities by strengthening member institutions through advocacy, policy research, and collaboration.

TACC is a nonprofit organization that represents public community college districts. Its primary mission is advocacy to help lead policy development, innovation and institutional practices in higher education. 

They provide a common voice on behalf of member colleges during the Texas Legislative session and build relationships with state policymakers during non-session years. This voice promotes the sustainability of, and equity among, community college districts across the great state of Texas. To learn more,  tacc.org.

Methodology.

The 101: The Higher Ed Poll of Texas was conducted between January 4th and 11th, 2021. Respondents were randomly selected at the level of the household. The survey also employed a randomized cellphone supplement, with 61 percent of completed interviews being conducted among cell phone only or cell phone-dominant households. A Spanish-language instrument with bilingual interviewers offered respondents a chance to participate in English or Spanish. On average, respondents completed the interview in 17 minutes. Eight hundred interviews were conducted between January 4th and 11th, 2021. The final data set is weighted by race/ethnicity, age, and gender to achieve representativeness as defined by the Texas State Health Department’s population projections for the 2018 Texas Adult Population. The overall margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.46 percentage points. The survey was designed and conducted by public opinion researchers James Henson, Ph.D. and Joshua Blank, Ph.D., SRATEX, LLC.

Key findings.

of Texans agree that having a degree or certificate beyond high school is important.

say that they need more education and training to get the job or career that they want.

of Texans agree that it is essential to have an educated workforce if Texas’ economy is going to compete with other states.

or 1 in 3 Texans report purchasing new equipment to continue to work or go to school during the pandemic.

  • 92 percent of Texans agree that having a degree or certificate beyond high school is important, and those degrees are a source of pride for most (93 percent), lead to a higher income (84 percent), better quality of life (79 percent) and are essential for getting a good job (69 percent).
  • 56 percent say that they need more education and training to get the job or career that they want. Among those that will seek out more education in the next five year would do so at a community college (32 percent) or enroll at a 4-year public college or university (37 percent).
  • 90 percent of Texans agree that it is essential to have an educated workforce if Texas’ economy is going to compete with other states.
  • Both Texans with and without student loan debt see student debt as a major problem. Overall, 76 percent of Texans view the problem of student loan debt for people in the United States as a “major problem,” including 74 percent of those who currently hold no student loan debt themselves.
  • Among those without a college degree, financial concerns top obstacles for not completing a college degree. The number one obstacle cited was “the cost of a degree” (68 percent), followed by job or work responsibilities (67 percent) and taking on student loan debt (62 percent).
  • 70 percent of those with associate’s degrees, 74 percent of those with college degrees, and 84 percent of those with graduate degrees say the cost of their education has or will pay off. 
  • 36 percent, or 1 in 3 Texans report purchasing new equipment to continue to work or go to school during the pandemic. 40 percent purchased equipment for both work and school and of those who had to purchase technology, 87 percent were not reimbursed for those purchases.
  • The most commonly cited impacts of the pandemic among a list of nine possible choices were lost savings or retirement funds (24 percent), a lost job (23 percent), and someone in the household contracting COVID-19 (19 percent).

Videos.

Policy and advocacy.

Addressing the Impact of COVID-19, access to technology and Internet/Broadband. 

WGU Advocate State Policy Handbook

Governor Abbott’s Broadband Development Council

2020 Texas Report: Governors Broadband Development Council The Governor’s Broadband Development Council (GBDC) was established in 2019 by the 86th Legislative Session to study and identify ways to provide internet access to underserved areas of Texas. 

WGU President Scott Pulsipher on Broadband Access and the Digital Divide:

National Governor’s Association (NGA) Broadband Whitepaper

Connected Nation Texas Report: County by County Broadband Maps County-by-county broadband maps show updated internet speeds, coverage areas for the entire state of Texas. Each set of maps includes additional input from residents, businesses, and communities, and more granular data from internet service providers (ISPs).

Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) Fact Sheets & Policy Briefs

Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas (ICUT) Coronavirus Updates and Resources